The "Gold Barb", "Puntius semifasciolatus" is an excellent little aquarium fish which is suitable for beginners.
Length and Longevity
It usually grows to about two inches long (5cm) although I have seen ones nearer 4 inches (10cm). Their usual life span is about five years.
Puntius semifasciolatus is native to China including Hainan, Laos, Taiwan and Vietnam. It has been introduced to Hawaii and Singapore. The waterways it comes from include the Red River, the Beijiang River, the Da River and the Mekong River and their tributaries. Typically, this fish lives in slowly flowing streams or waterways with little or no flow like swamps and ditches.
The ancestors of the Gold Barb are from Asia but the actual Gold form did not exist in the wild. The gold form seems to have been developed by selective breeding by Tom Schubert of New Jersey in the 1960’s. Some feral populations may now include the gold form of this fish.
The Gold barb thrives in cooler water than most tropical fish. 16 - 24° C (64 - 75° F) is this fish's preferred range although it will certainly survive at least eight degrees above this and a possibly a few degrees below. The waterways it come from have a quite wide range of temperature and on Hainan Island it was recorded from water that was 31.9 degrees C (89.4 degrees F) with a pH of 8.0, so this fish is very adaptable in its water requirements. This means that it is suitable for either a tropical aquarium with the temperature set at 24° C (75° F) or above or an unheated tank in areas that do not get very cold.
The colour change was not the only change that happened when Mr. Schubert was breeding these fish. The Gold form of the species is a little less cold resistant than the wild type. The wild type is sometimes sold as the "China Barb" and is a good aquarium fish although not as attractively coloured as the Gold Barb.
The Gold Barb likes fairly soft, slightly acidic water, but does well over a range of pH. I usually aim for neutral (7). It will tolerate a very wide range of hardness in the water.
Their natural habitat includes a lot of water plants and their aquarium should have a well planted section as well as some open water for swimming. Ideally it should be kept in an aquarium of at least 90 cm (3 feet) long.
The Gold Barb is an easily fed omnivore. Any good quality fish food is an excellent basis for its diet. As with nearly all fish, and most other animals, the Gold Barb benefits from the occasional change in its diet. Live food like mosquito larvae and Daphnia are gobbled up greedily. Frozen blood worms also make a good treat.
The Gold Barb is a schooling fish and a minimum of six should be kept.
The Gold Barb is not as likely to become a fin nipper as barbs like Rosy Barbs, and Tiger Barbs, but can be kept with these fish as well as with other slightly aggressive fish like Paraguay Tetras, Buenos Aires Tetras and Colombian Tetras.
Because the Gold Barb is peaceful it can also be kept with fish like Pristella Tetras, Rummy Nose Tetras, Harlequin Rasboras, Scissortail Rasboras, Lemon Tetras, Black Widow Tetras, Emperor Tetras, Head and Tail Light Tetras, Glass Bloodfin Tetras, Swordtails, Platies, Mollies, Zebra Danios, Glowlight Tetras, White Cloud Mountain Minnows and Cherry Barbs as well as the Corydoras catfish like the Peppered Catfish.
Small fish like Neon Tetras and Cardinal Tetras can certainly be kept with smaller Gold Barbs. In all cases, avoid too great a size difference between the fish in your aquarium.
Do not put large, aggressive or predatory fish with Gold Barbs.
The males tend to be brighter in colour and when ready to breed will get an orange-red belly. The females are duller in color and plumper. The females grow a little bigger than the males do.
Semi Natural Breeding
An alternative way of breeding Gold Barbs is to have them in as big an aquarium as possible, with large numbers of plants and leave the parents in. Of course you are likely to get less babies surviving, but this is a little closer to what could happen in the wild. A variation on this method is to put them into a well planted pond in the summer months and catch all the fish before it get too cold in the autumn (fall). The pond method of breeding is only suitable for climates where the summers are reliably warm.
A well conditioned pair or small school can be bred in a specially set up breeding tank.
Gold Barbs scatter their eggs over plants, preferably fine leaved ones. An increase in temperature to about 27̊ C (80̊ F) as well as a drop in pH to about 6.5 will tend to encourage them to breed. The parents will eat all the eggs they can find so a mesh on the tank base that allows the eggs to fall through, of a marble sized substrate or fine leaved plants, either real or artificial can be used to stop the eggs being eaten.
The spawning can be a little violent, so the tank should be reasonably big. I suggest at least two feet (60cm) long.
The actual spawning will usually take place when the tank starts to get light in the morning. I suggest removing the parents immediately after spawning. The average number of eggs per female is about a hundred although I have known of a female that produced over 400 eggs at one spawning.
Raising the Babies
The eggs are a yellowish colour. They should hatch in 1-3 days, and the fry become free swimming after about another 24 hours. The fry will eat fine dry foods, but benefit from suitable sized live foods at all stages. To prevent the babies from being filtered out, an air operated sponge filter can be used.
This fish has many names. Some of the other common names are "Golden Barb", "Schubert's Barb", "Green Barb", "Half Stripped Barb", "China Barb", "Chinese Half Striped Barb" and "Six Banded Barb". Other Scientific names it has been known by include: "Barbus semifasciolatus", "Pontius shubertii", "Puntius shubertii", "Barbus shubertii" and "Capoeta semifasciolatus"".
To add to the naming perplexity, the Gold Barb is often confused with: the "Golden Barb" (Puntius gelius) or the "Gold-finned Barb" (Puntius sachsii). The species name "shubertii" refers to Tom Shubert of Camden, New Jersey, USA who developed the Gold Barb. He did this by selective breeding, presumably from the wild form of Puntius semifasciolatus, in the 1960's. I remember when I was a teenager keeping fish in the 1960's and later that the Gold Barb was called Barbus shubertii. It was believed at first by some people to be a distinct species although there was already a suspicion that it was a form of Puntius semifasciolatus. Barbus shubertii was never a valid scientific name.
The currently accepted scientific name is Puntius semifasciolatus (Günther, 1868). Other valid scientific names that have been used in the past for this fish are Puntius semifasciolata (Günther, 1868), Barbus semifasciolatus (Günther, 1868) and Capoeta semifasciolata (Günther, 1868). Another ambiguous name that has been used is Barbus aureus (Tirant, 1883). The fish has also been called Barbus hainani (Lohberger, 1929).
The Gold Barb is a widely distributed fish and the UICN Red List considers it to be a species of least concern but has no information on whether the population is changing.
As with all captive fish, do not release your Gold Barbs
into the wild and do not put them in a situation where they could get out into
ecosystems they are not native to.
Sources and Picture Credits
The first picture under the title is by Nigelnathan. The second picture showing two Gold Barbs is by Fred Hsu (Wikipedia:User:Fredhsu on en.wikipedia) (Photo taken and uploaded by user) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons.
The first picture next the water conditions heading is from Merlin Marina Aquarium, and the second one is by Gintautas Steblys